Saddened charities have warned more rough sleepers will be on the streets around Chichester and Bognor Regis.
The West Sussex Coalition of Providers said it feared more people would die because of funding cutbacks agreed by West Sussex County Council.
Its 17 members – who include the Bognor Housing Trust and Stonepillow – have entered the new year faced with receiving much less financial support from the council for their work.
Cllr Amanda Jupp, the council’s cabinet member for adults and health, has agreed to go ahead with millions of pounds of cuts to spending on housing-related support and the local assistance network. Nearly 8,500 people benefited from services in the year to last April.
A spokesman for the coalition said: “As a coalition of providers, we are very saddened that the cabinet (member) disregarded the warnings and concerns which came from ourselves, seven district and borough councils, the NHS, the police and probation services and was supported by the health and social care select committee.
“These cuts will lead to more rough sleepers, more lives lost and remain a deep concern to all members of the West Sussex community. We recognise the strain on county council budgets, which is why we formed the coalition to engage with the council effectively and support them in making an informed decision.
“We were clear that these decisions should not be made at the expense of those who are most vulnerable – people who were escaping domestic violence, homeless, elderly, young, or who have mental and physical ill health. The vulnerable people we support do not have a voice which can be heard by those making the decisions.”
At present, the county council spends £5.1m a year on housing-related support and the local assistance network. The threat of cuts was raised last autumn soon after the coalition was formed.
Its members have been working to try to reduce the impact the cuts will have by showing how the services funded save lives and save public money being spent by other services across the health, housing, care and justice sectors.
But Cllr Jupp’s decision means the housing-related support budget will be reduced from £6.3m to £4.6m from this April and reduced again to £2.3m in April, 2020. The current contracts for the services will be ended by September 30.
The local assistance network budget to provide a financial safety net for families, those in significant poverty and at risk of being homeless will be slashed from £807,000 to £200,000 from this April.
Most will be spent on children and families to meet the council’s legal duties. Only £50,000 will be for social enterprises.
Cllr Jupp pledged the council would work with strategic partners, stakeholders and providers to remodel services. It would also work with district and borough councils to develop a homeless reduction strategy for the county.
The coalition’s members say they do not believe the changes can be carried out within eight months. They wanted a 12-month extension to their contracts to ensure stability while they created a West Sussex homelessness reduction strategy, changed services to meet the needs shown in the strategy, identified new funding and procured the services.
After the county budget was agreed, Cllr Jupp said: “The consultation provided the opportunity to meet with the coalition of providers, the district and borough councils, as well as those people who would be affected by any change in funding. Therefore, we have decided to continue to invest in these services but just not to the same level that we have to date.
“We have already begun the detailed conversations with our district and borough councils, and the voluntary and community sector organisations that provide many of these services, and we will continue to work together on developing new ways of delivering this type of support.
“I fully recognise the vital services provided by those who are funded through housing-related support. The phased reduction of this funding…is to enable us to work with these providers, and other partners, to find solutions which continue to meet the needs of our residents but also deliver the savings that we have to make.”